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As Myanmar has opened its doors to the world, it reveals a people still tied to ancient traditions and a country bursting with cultural treasures. The combination is a photographer's dream come true. In the company of a National Geographic photographer, capture images of monks and artisans, lively markets and sparkling temples. Set out on sunrise and sunset photo shoots, and enjoy rare opportunities to document prayer ceremonies and traditional dancers. Catch the sunrise on the stupa-studded plains of Bagan, and photograph fishermen poling past the floating gardens of Inle Lake.
Set out on a sunrise photo shoot in Bagan overlooking temples dotting the landscape, or for those interested, from the vantage point of a hot-air balloon.
Document a lamp-lighting ceremony at Yangon's glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, and focus on monks at prayer in Mandalay.
During a special dinner under the stars in Bagan, enjoy temple views and an opportunity to photograph a traditional dance performance.
Capture weavers, goldsmiths, and lacquer artisans plying their ancient crafts, or the iconic leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake polling their skiffs.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Yangon, Myanmar
Fly to Myanmar and arrive into Yangon, the former capital. Transfer to our hotel and gather for an orientation briefing before an afternoon walking tour. Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner this evening. Sule Shangri-La Hotel, Yangon (D)
Day 2 — Yangon
Begin the day with an early morning visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Take in the glittering stupas of this famous pagoda, a gilded temple tipped with more than 4,500 diamonds. Originally built to house eight sacred hairs of the Buddha, it stands over 300 feet high and is surrounded by numerous places of worship and rest for the more than 10,000 pilgrims. Browse the local Bahan Market and then practice portraiture skills during a visit to Kalaywa Tawya Monastery and School Project. After lunch at a teahouse, see the colossal reclining Buddha that stretches more than 200 feet at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda. Attend a talk tonight to learn about Myanmar’s changing political climate. Sule Shangri-La Hotel, Yangon (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Yangon / Mandalay
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Mandalay, the artistic center of Myanmar. Admire the intricate teak carvings of the Shwe Nandaw Monastery, a masterpiece of 19th-century woodcarving and what remains of the original Mandalay Palace. Then travel to Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to 729 chiseled marble slabs engraved with Buddhist scriptures. Visit a gold-leaf workshop to photograph artisans plying their craft in traditional ways that has lasted for centuries. Continue to the ancient capital of Inwa this afternoon, and hop into horse-carts to visit Nan Myint Tower, Menu Ok-kyaung Monastery, and the teak Bagaya Monastery. Mandalay Hill Resort (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Mandalay
Gather with our photographer on deck for a sunrise photo shoot as we sail to Mingun, home to a massive, unfinished pagoda. Explore the Mingun Pagoda Complex to see the late 18th-century Pahtodawgyi Pagoda before returning to Mandalay in time to photograph monks receiving rice during a donation ceremony. This afternoon, visit Sagaing, where myriad pagodas gleam white and gold on rolling green hillsides. Take panoramic shots of the view from Sun Oo Ponya Shin Pagoda, and work on portraiture during a visit to a convent and a community school. Then capture sunset overlooking the Irrawaddy River before returning to the hotel for dinner. Mandalay Hill Resort (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Mandalay / Bagan
Capture sunrise at the U Bein Bridge, a teak structure that spans nearly 4,000 feet. After breakfast, stroll down “Marble Street,” a small street lined with marble carving workshops. Capture workers trimming, carving, or polishing the white stone, or capture variations of Buddha lining the street. End your walk at the Mahamuni Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Mandalay. Transfer to the airport and fly to Bagan. Check in to our hotel and enjoy a group dinner. Bagan Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Bagan
During the 11th and 12th centuries, some 10,000 temples, stupas, and monasteries were built on the Bagan plain. Today, the remains of more than 2,200 of these structures – from tiny stupas to towering temples – still dot the landscape. Float high over Bagan at sunrise on an optional balloon ride, taking in the beautiful scenery and watching the sun rise among crumbling temples and stupas. After breakfast, visit the gold-plated Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan’s greatest reliquary. Then examine 13th-century murals at Gubyaukgyi Temple and visit Htilominlo Temple, a fine example of stucco carving. This afternoon, ride a horse-cart through the local village of West Pwa-Saw before capturing the sunset from a viewing location overlooking the Bagan plain. Enjoy an exclusive post-sunset photo shoot at one of the temples. Bagan Lodge (B,L)
Day 7 — Bagan
This morning, take the opportunity to photograph sunrise near the village of Minnanthu before continuing to Tayok Pyi temple to view the carved stucco walls and well-preserved frescoes. Attend a novice initiation ceremony for children preparing to become monks, and document the pageantry of the 2,500-year-old tradition. After lunch, learn how local palm wine is made at a toddy palm farm and stop in at a lacquerware workshop to watch artisans transform bamboo, wood, and horsehair into stunning serving wear. During a special dinner under the stars, enjoy temple views and work on motion and panning techniques during a traditional dance performance. Bagan Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Bagan / Inle Lake
After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Heho, located in the southern Shan State. Upon arrival, drive to Inle Lake, visiting Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery and Nyaungshwe village along the way. Enjoy an afternoon on the lake, photographing floating villages and pagodas on shore and capturing the skills of local artisans at a cheroot factory and weaving workshop. This afternoon, visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and examine five Buddha images so smothered in gold leaf that they have lost all trace of their original forms. Capture the unique sight of fishermen poling their skiffs with one leg in an exciting boat race. Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Inle Lake
After an optional sunrise photo shoot, travel to the little-visited village of Sagar, the ancient royal capital, located along the edge of the lake. Visit the Takhaung Mwetaw monastery and walk the village paths, photographing locals and schoolchildren before spending time among the temples, crumbling stupas, and monastery. Capture the stillness of the lake on a sunset photo shoot of a conical net Intha fisherman. Return to hotel for dinner this evening. Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Inle Lake / Heho / Yangon
After breakfast, fly to Yangon and spend a final day in Myanmar’s former capital. Browse local handicrafts at the Bogyoke Aung San Market this morning. In the late afternoon, return to the Shwedagon Pagoda and enjoy a chance to photograph local families and pilgrims strolling and socializing beneath this extraordinary temple. Then participate in or photograph a lamp-lighting ceremony before we toast our journey at a festive farewell dinner. Sule Shangri-La Hotel, Yangon (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Yangon / Home
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
Nevada Wier is a multiple-award-winning photographer specializing in documenting the remote corners and cultures of the world. Her journeys have taken her throughout the deserts, mountains, and urban jungles of the globe. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic magazine, Geo, National Geographic Traveler, Outdoor Photographer, Outside, and Smithsonian. She is a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club and a member of the Women’s Geographic Society. Nevada has been traveling to Myanmar since 1986, and is currently working on a book about the country.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,600. The optional balloon ride on Day 6 is $350. Airfare to/from Yangon and within Myanmar is not included in the expedition cost. The group flights within Myanmar are $525 per person (subject to change).
What To Expect
This is a moderately active trip with numerous village and temple visits that require walking over uneven terrain, boarding local boats, and climbing stairs in often hot and humid conditions. We will frequently be required to remove socks and shoes to enter religious sites. Travelers should be in good health and physically fit.